Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

Not many people would actually choose to go back to high school, so we are lucky to have the brave few who do: high school teachers. We're even luckier when they're like Mr. Ken Gardner. 
He just finished his 13th year as a coach and English teacher at Jamestown High School. I took a couple of classes from him, but even if I hadn't it would have been impossible not to get to know him—and not just because of the size of the school and town. 
 He was always out in the hall talking to kids, serving as a coach, student council adviser, attending (and announcing at) sporting events, dances. . . pretty much everything. And there was always a genuine smile on his face, concern for students' well-being, a joke for someone having a rough day, and advice for anyone in need of guidance.
An all-around great guy with a good heart, he has some pretty excellent insight for us below.
Current job: High school English teacher, boys’ and girls’ cross country head coach, boys’ track and field head coach, student council adviser.

Dream job: Professional actor.
First job ever: Lawn care (mowing, raking, trimming, etc.).

First "grown-up" job: High school teacher/coach
my current job.

Why did you choose a teaching career? I went to law school for a year following college and student teaching.  While there, I realized that a life as a teacher would provide me with a much more balanced outlook on life.   
When do most people go to a lawyer? When things are pretty bad: someone has committed a crime, someone is getting divorced, someone has died, etc. As a high school teacher/coach, yes there would be challenges and defeats, but there would also be the success stories to balance things out.

More specifically, what drew you to teaching English?  What originally drew me to English was the freedom that I had to choose the content through which I could teach and connect with my students.  Unfortunately, much of the freedom has disappeared.

What is your favorite part about your job? Something new every day: a new success, a new problem to solve.

What is the biggest challenge? Parents. Name a problem that a student has, and I will be able to tell you how the parents have caused/contributed to that problem.

How has the teaching profession changed since you started, and how do you envision it changing in the future? The field of teaching has become more and more legislated.  With all the new rules and regulations, the art of being a great teacher has largely been legislated away.

What advice do you have for someone pursuing a similar career path? Don’t teach summer school. Get away and recharge the batteries!

What do you enjoy most about coaching? Seeing a student-athlete mature, commit and make good decisions.

Do you have any advice on being a successful coach? Have a good plan, but be willing to adjust.

Any running tips? Listen to your body. Sometimes, a recovery day can be just as important as a hard workout.

What do you wish you knew when you were 20? How hard it is to find the right woman.

When you are 50, what do you want to be able to say when you look back at this moment in your life? That I made the right choices, both professionally and personally.

How do you define success? By the number of people whose lives you changed for the better.

Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally, and why? My dad, Kenneth C. Gardner, Jr. He was a high school teacher with a passion for what he did.

What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time? Reading, biking, attending concerts.

What is number one on your bucket list? Attend an Olympic track and field meet.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chocolate chip.

Thank you, Ken!

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